Kyle Long

Final thoughts: Matt Nagy adds another wrinkle with Bradley Sowell at fullback

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USA Today

Final thoughts: Matt Nagy adds another wrinkle with Bradley Sowell at fullback

If 2018 has proven anything to the NFL, it’s that Matt Nagy isn’t shy about putting big dudes in places you usually don’t see big dudes in this sport.  
 
Case in point: During last weekend’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, 6-foot-7, 312 pound backup swing tackle Bradley Sowell played eight snaps lined up as a fullback.
 
“Hats off to Brad, that’s an odd position for a tall lineman to be in,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He stepped in there and he made some key blocks.”
 
Sowell was told the Wednesday prior to the Vikings game he’d get some work at fullback, and quickly became “obsessed,” he said, with learning everything he could about the position. He talked with Michael Burton, the Bears’ natural fullback, as well as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to get a sense of what he needed to do, and what an opposing defensive player wouldn’t want to see from someone about 75 pounds heavier running at him downhill.
 
“Little stuff like that can help take your game to the next level,” Trevathan said.
 
Sowell’s athleticism has been on display in a few different ways this year, be it on catching a touchdown from Mitch Trubisky on “Santa’s Sleigh” against the Los Angeles Rams or running a route in the end zone, too, against the New England Patriots. He's also the guy who plays catch with Khalil Mack before games, showing off a decent arm.
 
But playing fullback was a different role, one the Bears came away pleased with how Sowell handled. Whether or not he gets some work in the backfield on Sunday remains to be seen, but what he did against the Vikings perhaps will give the Eagles something to think about.
 
“It’s my seventh year doing this, so I know that we’re trying to make a run and whatever’s asked of me each week by coach Nagy I trust him,” Sowell said. “And he wouldn’t put me there if he thought I couldn’t do it.”
 
Happy birthday, Howie
 
With NBC televising Sunday afternoon’s contest — and FOX not having a game broadcast — Howie Long will get to celebrate his 59th birthday in Chicago watching two of his sons square off in a playoff game.
 
Bears right guard Kyle Long is expected to play a full game Sunday after returning from injured reserve a week ago, while Eagles defensive end Chris Long remains an important piece of Philadelphia’s pass rush with 6 1/2 sacks and 20 quarterback hits in 2018.
 
Sunday won’t be the first time the two brothers have played against each other — it happened as recently as 2017, when the Eagles blew out the Bears in Philadelphia — but the stakes have never been this high.
 
“It’s probably going to be pretty crazy for them,” Kyle Long said. “… It’s gonna be a fun birthday for them. I don’t think my mom will be able to watch. She’ll be there, but she’ll probably have her eyes covered the whole time. Yeah, they love their kids. They’re going to be happy to be here. I think everybody’s just happy.”
 
An offensive mind...and a great defense
 
The Bears hired an offensive mind in Nagy a year ago to improve a unit that felt stuck in the 20th century under John Fox and flopped in the Jay Cutler era. Nagy certainly improved the Bears’ offense, but not to the point where it was the catalyst for a 12-4 season and NFC North championship.
 
So an amusing exchange happened on Friday when a reporter informed Nagy four of his players — cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and punt returner Tarik Cohen — were tabbed as All-Pros.
 
“No offense?” Nagy chuckled.
 
The Bears enter the playoffs for the first time in eight years with a team that feels fitting in franchise history. Success, again in Chicago, is defined by great defense, not necessarily great offense.
 
Nagy, though, is hoping to eventually be the coach who levels those two sides of the ball out. But, in his first year, he’s not there yet.
 
“Growing up as a kid you just know about the tradition of the defense here,” Nagy said. “I could go on and on with that. So you feel that, you know it, and now for us to have that again, it’s just — it means too much to this city. Everybody relates with the defense.
 
“In the end, we’d like to be able to make it to where it’s offense and defense. But we get, right now, that where we’re at.”

Film review: How Kyle Long's return could power Jordan Howard against Eagles' stout D-line

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Film review: How Kyle Long's return could power Jordan Howard against Eagles' stout D-line

As the Bears focus their attention on the Philadelphia Eagles this week, they do so with Jordan Howard coming off his best game of the year — 21 carries, 109 yards and two touchdowns against a Minnesota Vikings defense that had only allowed one other running back to gain over 100 yards in a game all year. 

Howard finished the season strong, with 399 yards on 88 carries (4.5 yards/carry) and four touchdowns over the Bears’ final five games (in his first 11, Howard averaged 3.3 yards/carry and had five touchdowns). The Bears, schematically, figured some things out to jump-start Howard’s season — but, on Sunday, also got a boost from the return of right guard Kyle Long. 

So today’s film review will look at Howard’s 42-yard run against the Vikings, and Long’s impact on the play, which was Howard's longest run of the year. It’s the kind of play that worked against a good Vikings’ defensive line, and very well could work against a similarly-good Eagles line led by game-wracking defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. 

As the ball is snapped, a hole quickly opens up with Long routing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to his outside shoulder and Bobby Massie stonewalling defensive end Danielle Hunter (orange circle). Trey Burton runs across the line of scrimmage (purple arrow), with linebacker Anthony Barr freezing and then moving to his right along with Burton’s motion. That quickly opens up a big hole for Howard (blue arrow) to run toward. 

Howard takes the handoff, with Josh Bellamy blocking cornerback Trae Waynes but also getting his hands on safety Anthony Harris just enough (yellow circle). 

Howard plants his left foot and takes off, with an off-balance Harris unable to get to him. By the time Howard hits the hole opened up by Long and Massie (orange arrows) it’s absolutely massive. 

Howard turns this into a 42-yard run with a shifty move on safety Harrison Smith, who gets completely turned around in the open field. 

“It really did set the tone,” Burton said. “You know they’re going to come out with their best, speaking of Minnesota, and to be able to kind of put a dagger at the very beginning was huge for us.”

***

Long said after Sunday’s game that he felt fine after the 27 snaps he played, and coach Matt Nagy said Monday he was hopeful Long would be able to play a full game against the Eagles this weekend. Runs like this aren’t possible solely because of Long’s return, but they’re certainly aided by his presence. 

“Jordan had some big runs to his side,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “But he’s getting back in the feel of things. Practice is different compared to the game and it was good that he got out here and got some reps.”

For Long, getting those snaps was important to get his feet under him with an eye on the playoffs. And Long made an immediate impact on the game, the kind that can carry over when Cox and that brawling Eagles’ line come to Soldier Field on Sunday. 

“I felt good physically,” Long said. “It has been a long time since I have had game reps. I wouldn’t say it’s like riding a bike, but it’s somewhere near that. Probably more like riding a skateboard, some balancing and stuff like that involved. Felt good, foot feels good and I knew I was going to be on a pitch count, so I just tried to make the most of my opportunities in there and to help the team.”  

Bears get a late-season boost, activate Kyle Long off injured reserve

Bears get a late-season boost, activate Kyle Long off injured reserve

The Bears will receive a late-season boost from the return of offensive lineman Kyle Long, who was activated off injured reserve on Saturday in advance of Sunday’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Long injured his foot in the Bears’ Week 7 win over the New York Jets, but while the Bears placed him on injured reserve in the days following that game they never ruled him out for the 2018 season. Long was in a walking boot until early last week, and participated in his first practice on Dec. 21. He participated in all three practices this week at nearly a full level, coach Matt Nagy said. 

To make room for Long on the active roster, the Bears waived quarterback Tyler Bray. 

Getting Long back for Week 17 was important for the Bears, who hoped to get him some game action before the playoffs begin next month. Nagy said Friday Long won’t necessarily be on a snap count against the Vikings, but how much he plays could be based more on how he’s feeling throughout the game (as well as what situation the Bears are facing with regard to their shot at a first-round bye, one would think). 

“Just talking to him throughout the week, I feel pretty good with him playing most of the game,” Nagy said. “But we’ve just got to kind of see if that’s where we’re at and if it is a pitch count. I think a lot of that honestly is going to be more so when you’re in the game: How’s he feeling? If he’s feeling good, keep him going. If he’s not, and when I say not, maybe it’s just between all of us talking, Hey, let’s just get him out. It’s good for him anyway you look at it.”

While Bryan Witzmann has done an admirable job filling in for Long at right guard, he’s allowing one pressure for about every 20 drop-backs, per Pro Football Focus. Long, meanwhile, allowed one pressure for every 30 drop-backs when healthy. The Bears also will get a boost from a run-blocking perspective with Long’s return. 

At a time when most teams are getting progressively less healthy, the Bears getting Long back will be a welcome addition for what the team hopes will be a deep run into the playoffs. 

“He's a dog,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack, whose locker is next to Long’s at Halas Hall, said. “He's gonna be a good addition to what's already going on offensively. Just being able to have him back is huge for us. Looking forward to seeing how he does.”